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I remember the first fish I ever caught as a kid like it was only yesterday. It was a snapper blue (juvenile bluefish) not much bigger than my hand. I still remember how it shimmered as I raised it out of the water onto that old bridge on a sunny summer morning on Cape Cod.
My gear was very basic – a short generic-looking fishing pole with a pre-spooled spincast reel from a local department store and a box of sea worms from the bait shop down the road.
The spincast reel was my introduction to sportfishing. I didn’t have an adult or a friend who fished to teach me the ins and outs of the sport, so at the time it was the only type of reel I could have handled. It made it possible for me to learn to fish – and I loved it!
For me, the spin cast reel is nostalgic, it conjures up fond memories of that day special day. But I also love how its simplicity and ease of use can still help to make it easier for kids and beginners to learn and enjoy fishing.
So in this post, I wanted to revisit my first reel and highlight the simple design features and other winning aspects that still make the spincast the best reel for kids and other beginners who want to learn to fish.
They are probably responsible for more caught fish across the United States than any other type of reel. They’re not difficult to use, and they’re relatively cheap in comparison to a majority of the other models that are available.
Spincast, the Answer to an Annoying Problem
Unlike baitcasting reels, which have been popular with anglers throughout the world, spincasts don’t have the annoying backlash. Backlash can be a problem for any angler and almost a guarantee for the novice.
These baitcasting reels can create a huge mess of tangled line, so fittingly known as the “bird’s nest” if the angler doesn’t apply the perfect amount of pressure to the line while it’s being cast.
The Zero Hour Bomb Company thought they found the answer in the late 1940s with the production of the first spincast reel. The company later renamed Zebco, a name that became synonymous with this type of reel, and promoted it as the reel “guaranteed to never backlash“. Today, Zebco continues to make arguably the best spincast reels on the market.
The troublesome tangled line can’t form, as the spool that contains the line doesn’t spin, or move at all. When one casts the rod, the fishing line is uncoiled from the static spool with the weight of a lure, and through a hole in the reel. The line stops unspooling as soon as the lure meets the water and does not backlash.
In order to unwind or rewind the line from the spool, the reel will feature an easy lever or button that can be depressed with a thumb. When pressed, the lever or button will cause take-up pins to retract inside of the reel and allow the fishing line to move freely off the spool.
When the reel’s handle is cranked, the take-up pins snap back into place within the spool. Cranking the handle will additionally reset the pins and the rotating spool cover so that the fishing line can be wound back into the reel.
The Essentials of a Simple Reel
The thing that has made this reel so popular for generations is its simplicity. It is pretty minimalistic in comparison to other types of reels used today. That is is what makes it such a great tool for helping kids and others to get started in recreational fishing.
Let’s have a brief look at its main features and components and how they benefit the user.
Line Retrieval on Spincasts
Line retrieval can be speedier if you use a model with multiple take-up pins. One-pin reels are known to have a slight delay, as the one pin needs to turn around completely to reset itself and allow for rewinding action.
Remember to apply constant tension on the fishing line while reeling it back in, as this will ensure that it will spool evenly and consistently, which makes for a better unspooling later. You can apply this tension by holding the line between two fingers while you crank the reel’s handle, especially with lighter lures that don’t have too much drag of their own.
Fishing with a spincast reel is as easy as pushing a button. Hold down the button as you bring the rod behind you to make a cast, and release the button as you cast forward to allow the line to unspool.
Baitcasting rods are fitted with this type of button-operated spincast reel while spinning rods are fitted with a trigger-operated spincast reel, also called ‘triggerspin’ or ‘underspin’ reel. They’re attached to the underside of the rod similar to a spinning reel and are operated as a pushbutton reel, though pressure from your finger needs to be held until the moment of the cast.
If you want to pick up spinning gear and drop your baitcasting rig, or if you have a kid who wants to make the switch away from spinning reels, an underspin is a cheap and efficient way to make the change.
Spincast Reel Drag
There are two methods to adjust the drag on a spincast reel, depending on the model. The side of the reel can be augmented with a ‘star drag’, which uses two fingers to operate and is usually large and easy to see.
Alternately, there can be an internal mechanism that is controlled by a wheel that sticks through the cover of the reel.
Reel makers usually put this drag wheel where a fisher’s thumb can conveniently operate it while they’re reeling in a fish. Don’t settle on one kind of reel without going out and trying both systems of drag control.
Gear Ratios on Spincast Reels
Gear ratios on spincast reels read something like 4.3:1 or 2.6:1. The first number in the ratio tells you the number of times the line is wound around the spool for each complete turn of the handle.
A gear ratio of 2.6:1 would wind your line 2.6 times around the spool for each crank. Likewise, a spincast reel with a 4.3:1 ratio can be turned once for the line to wind 4.3 times around the spool. The higher this ratio reads, the quicker the line is wound back after a cast.
Low gear ratios might be slower, but they’re also more powerful, not unlike the gear ratios in a vehicle. Spincast reels have a fairly narrow range of gear ratios, unlike spinning or baitcasting reels, with numbers usually spanning 2.5 to 4.5:1.
Spincast reels also tend to carry less line than other reels, usually housing around 80 to 120 yards of line, but this is a number that changes with the exact diameter of the reel and the type of line you’re using. Basic monofilament line is best for spincasts in terms of both cost and performance.
A spincast reel will usually already have the line pre-spooled inside of the reel. Occasionally, reels will feature spools that are interchangeable, allowing anglers to switch out lines quickly as the need arises.
Like all reels, the more ball bearings your spincast has, the better. More ball bearings mean a smoother operating reel, and most spincast reels usually feature three ball bearings, with some of today’s higher-end models having double of that or more.
Here Are 3 Top Spincast Reels I like for Performance and Value:
Zebco Bullet– This is my favorite spincast reel from the company that started it all. It is a premium spincast so it is not cheap, but boy is this one fun to fish! This reel comes with 9 stainless steel bearings for ultra smoothness and other premium performance components and features for the serious spincaster.
Best For: Anyonr who wants top performance out of a spincast reel. I think It is the best spincast reel on the market today.
Runcl SC330 – Probably the most attractive spincast reel of the bunch. But it has more than looks going for it. This reel is made with quality components such as stainless steel and aluminum. It comes in two configurations: a 6 or an 8-ball bearing model. Quick right/left retrieval changeout is another great feature.
Best For: Those who want value. This reel combines quality with affordability.
Zebco 33 – Another outstanding reel from Zebco. The 33 was first introduced in 1954 and has been a best-seller for good reason. At its cost that is less than some lures you could call it a budget reel, but you get a lot for your money here. Quickset anti-reverse, a reliable drag, and all-metal gears. This is a greater starter reel for kids.
Best For: Young kids just learning to fish. A very inexpensive yet good spincast reel for the little ones, or anyone on a budget.
Though they might not be used by the more experienced anglers today who favor spinning and baitcasting reels, spincast reels continue to have a place in the fishing world, and I imagine they always will.
I find them to be an excellent choice for casual or light freshwater fishing. They are especially useful and fun when targeting panfish species such as crappie, yellow perch, and bluegill. I have also seen anglers catch walleye and bass with them.
The reason why plenty of people still fish with them is because of their simplicity, availability, and affordability. Spincast reels are excellent tools to teach your kids how to fish because they’re so easy to use – but they’re not just for kids!
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